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This past week I played standard tournament for the first time since National Qualifiers. Now, I don’t actually own a Standard deck so I just showed, up and assumed my friend would hand me a pretty reasonable deck. My plan was to futz around with the deck a little, probably change two or three cards based on what I saw in the room, and play for the best.
Little did I know that I was going to get to play one of my absolute favorite cards in recent memory: Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. FNM went pretty well, and I all but goldfished my way to a win, got a few packs of Worldwake and some new sleeves with my store credit, whiffed on both Jace, the Mindsculptor and Stoneforge Mystic in my packs, and went home. For those who are interested, my tweak was running a sideboard with Spell Pierce and Dispel for Splinter Twin combo and CawBlade. Brilliant or awful? No one knows!
At this point, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I like getting extra value out of my lands. Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle are two of my favorite cards ever printed because they're increasingly powerful as games go longer. As long as Commander games tend to go long, and as long as playing land destruction is akin to political suicide, playing powerful spell-lands is one of the best things that you can do in Commander.
Assuming that spell-lands are as powerful as I believe they are, a deck built around Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle could have a lot of raw power available to it, while being difficult to disrupt, since your win condition is a land. If you're ramping already you've even got a solid back-up plan of casting gigantic guys!
The problem with decks like this is that they're built around a one card. In a normal, 60 card format that's not really a problem, but in a 100-card singleton format it means there will be a number of games that you don't have access to your namesake. This problem is compounded when you're building around a card like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, which becomes significantly more threatening only in multiples. This means the deck is going to start with ways to find Valakut, and ways to increase the damage output of our single Valakut. Let's start with these:
Tutors and Card Selection:
- Sylvan Scrying
- Expedition Map
- Crop Rotation
- Reap and Sow
- Sylvan Library
- Mirri's Guile
- Sensei's Divining Top
I've been playing this list a lot over the last few weeks, and I've been pretty happy with my ability to find Valakut and to produce staggering amounts of damage with it once it's in play. Quest for Pure Flame is completely unfair on your "combo" turn since it usually involves multiple Regrowth effects and ramp spells. It's more than possible to quadruple or even octuple your damage output with Quests.
The only two cards that have been a little disappointing are Sensei's Divining Top and Mirri's Guile. You run a ton of shuffle effects, but also a billion lands. Repeatedly digging three deep doesn't do quite as much as you'd expect it does. Sylvan Library is still awesome though, since you can draw extra cards if you want, and it combos with Abundance in a color combination that doesn't get much card drawing.
Speaking of card drawing, there actually is an interesting tension you have to think about when building this deck: adding blue or black will make it much easier to find your singleton Valakut, however more colors mean lowering the number of mountains in your deck which really restricts the damage output. I want to have enough Mountains to kill a table of about three other people, plus some creatures here and there, so I'm going to stick with straight red-green.
The awesome thing about being a Valakut deck is that your ramp spells are going to be live at every point in the game, which means you can absolutely max out on them and can build your deck to enable some of the weaker ones. I want to take a second here to talk about commander selection since there are really two directions to take: Radha, Heir to Keld and [card]Wort, the Raidmother[/card. These two approaches want to emphasize different ramp spells.
Running Radha means you'll always have access to a turn two accelerant, and the consistency and speed provided by that are not to be underestimated. However, most Commander metagames are defined by hay-makers, and Wort, the Raidmother turns your suite of ramp spells into hybrid Searing Wind and Plague Wind, doubling the output of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle alone, and lets you out-mana your opponents in a truly obscene fashion. It's safe to say that I'll be running Wort, but if you're in a more competitive metagame, I think there's definitely something to be said for a more consistent Radha deck.
General: Wort, the Raidmother
- Kodama's Reach
- Explosive Vegetation
- Search for Tomorrow
- Rampant Growth
- Deep Reconnaissance
- Far Wanderings
- Growth Spasm
- Frenzied Tilling
- Into the North
- Recross the Paths
- Nature's Lore
- Untamed Wilds
- Primal Growth
- Azusa, Lost but Seeking
- Journey of Discovery
- Krosan Tusker
- Oracle of Mul Daya
- Yavimaya Elder
- Perilous Forays
Alright, these ramp spells are split into three groupings. The first is your typical Rampant Growth effects. It's important to pick ramp spells of this variety at a number of costs, and preferably that put lands into play untapped so you can have bigger "combo" turns by chaining ramp spells.
The second set of cards hope to take advantage of giving you multiple land drops, usually in conjunction with Yavimaya Elder or Crucible of Worlds, and let you take advantage of Cultivate and Kodama's Reach more effectively, especially when you start conspiring them.
How exactly are you going to use your ramp spells? Early game, you want to use them to find a combination of Forests and Mountains. you never want to go above four or five mountains without a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in play so that you get value out of each subsequent Mountain. You also want to consider that your damage output is restricted by the number of green spells that you can play in a single turn, so you want to have as many green sources as possible available to you in the mid game.
Now, there are about three ramp spells you're almost always going to want to save for big Valakut turns: Journey of Discovery, Far Wanderings, and Primal Growth. These are all absolutely disgusting when they're conspired, and chain into multiple other ramp spells easily, so be absolutely certain you're going to maximize their value before you fire them off.
The problem with red and green as a color combination is that you have very few ways to recoup lost card advantage. This is a steep issuee in a format like Commander, where card advantage is king. Valakut turning all your mountains into burn spells certainly contributes to overcoming that disadvantage, but conspiring spells with Wort is going to be the primary value-engine of the deck. Let's take a look:
- Eternal Witness
- Vengeful Rebirth
- Knollspine Dragon
- Deranged Hermit
- Gelatinous Genesis
- Acorn Harvest
So, let's start by talking about Knollspine Dragon. It is a crime that this guy doesn't get more play. I have decked myself with him multiple times by being careless with how I stacked my triggers. It's very rare that you'll draw fewer than twelve cards, and that's without taking time to set him up. He is a card-advantage machine, and I have yet to lose a game where I've resolved him.
The rest of these are pretty straightforward. Eternal Witness and Recoup are the worst of the bunch, but have definitely pulled their weight. The Regrowth effects are absolutely insane with Wort, the Raidmother, and give you a really strong late-game plan. Conspire your Regrowth to buy back a Recollect and another good card. Conspire your Recollect to buy back Regrowth and another good card. Repeat? Win?
Lastly, we've got some minimal token generation. I picked these token generators because they seemed the most cost effective. Acorn Harvest may seem weird, but with Wort you can conspire it both times you cast it to dump 8 squirrels into play for 4GG and three life. It's hard to match that efficiency.
- Relic Crush
- Hull Breach
- Boseiju, Who Shelters All
- Dust Bowl
- Ghost Quarter
- Mouth of Ronom
- Dryad Arbor
- Green Sun's Zenith
- Natural Order
- Primal Command
- Crucible of Worlds
- Life from the Loam
Every deck has to have some reactionary mechanisms and resiliency so you don't just lose to another proactive deck. These are some of my concessions to that. You've got some artifact and enchantment removal, but you don't need creature removal because Valakut takes care of that. You have some land destruction in Ghost Quarter and Dust Bowl, which do double duty by letting you recycle your mountains with Crucible of Worlds and Primal Command so that you don't run out of Valakut triggers.
Mouth of Ronom might not be good enough, but it's a concession to creatures with more than three toughness, but could probably be cut in some metagames. If you do, then you can run basics instead of Snow basics.
Dryad Arbor is insane. It's fetchable with Wooded Foothills, sacrifices to Natural Order, conspires spells with Wort, the Raidmother; Dryad Arbor does everything you could possibly want a land to do! I've been slotting it into more and more decks, and I'm always surprised by just how much this "land" does.
A funny thing about your primary plan involving dumping a billion lands into play: it makes casting gigantic hay-makers really, really easy. Suddenly, dropping Green Sun's Zenith for six or more isn't a very big deal. You can casually cast Avenger of Zendikar AND Primeval Titan in the same turn. These are the game-ending spells that I think have the most synergy with what the deck is already trying to do:
- Avenger of Zendikar
- Primeval Titan
- Rampaging Baloths
- Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- Woodfall Primus
- Genesis Wave
- Warp World
Mostly, these bombs are cards that can win the game on their own and contribute positively in some other way, either making guys for more conspiring goodness, getting better when you play more lands, or answering problematic permanents.
Warp World is a little interesting as another copy of Genesis Wave. The difference is that Warp World shuffles your mountains into your deck, which gives you a ton of gas for your Valakuts, which is always important.
Last, but certainly not least, let's look at the mana-base. You have to have access to at least one green in EVERY game, but want to max out on mountains:
- Terramorphic Expanse
- Evolving Wilds
- Wooded Foothills
- Stomping Ground
- 7 Snow-Covered Forest
- 24 Snow-Covered Mountain
That's the last couple of cards in the deck, so let's take a look at the finished list:
[deckbox did="a63" size="small" width="560"]
I've played this deck in a few games now, and it's been a blast. I've killed the entire table after untapping with Wort, the Raidmother and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. I've decked myself with Knollspine Dragon. I've even cast Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre multiple times in one turn. The deck is a ton of fun, and I hope you've enjoyed reading about it.
As always, I'm excited to get constructive criticism and comments; if you've got any questions or ideas, or just decklists you want to talk about, shoot me an email or a tweet! See you next week!
@cag5383 on Twitter
2 thoughts on “So Standard”
I have two questions:
1) Is only 12 green sources enough to consistently draw one in an opening hand while playing what is almost a mono-green deck with a pile of mountains and Valakut added? You basically are talking about a 1/10 chance to start with a green land, which seems kind of low.
2) I guess I'm confused about Warp World being very good in this deck. You basically have to flip Valakut when you shuffle and reveal cards for it to work right? I guess I don't see how the off-chance that happens and you get to deal 30 damage around the table makes it worth it, especially since its Commander, basically everyone will be doing ridiculous things, and the chances of someone else at the table having a gazillion permanents in play is pretty high, and I'm sure there are plenty of commander decks playing more game-ending creature threats.
12 cards out of 99 gives a 61% chance of drawing a green source. Add to that friendly EDH mulligans, and drawing on the first turn, and it gets even better. Still a little low for my liking, but not as bad as Turkey made out.